Review: The Pantaloon’s An (almost) complete history of Britain

Last week, I wrote a speedy, gushy review of a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest by The Pantaloons.  At the time of writing, I promised you another review of their other touring production “An (almost) complete history of Britain”.

Unfortunately, last week/weekend was particularly jam packed (read here if you don’t believe me).  And while going to the theatre on two consecutive nights may sound like a hoot, it’s actually quite tiring and doesn’t leave you with much energy for writing a coherent review.

Well, it’s been over a week, I’ve had time to recuperate and now I’m ready to get down to the review.  So here we go:

All previous Pantaloons productions I have been to featured plays or plots that I was familiar with.  I was aware of the destination we were heading for, even if I couldn’t predict the crazy, meandering scenic route we would take to get there.

History of Britain was already set to be a different experience for me as I had no idea what was going to happen.  The programme included details of the periods of history that would be explored (I could have guessed Henry VIII and World War 1, but probably wouldn’t have thought of Lady Jane Grey and highwaymen). So as I took my seat I had no idea what to expect.  Which was rather exciting.

The production is still touring and I would hate to give too much away, so I’m not going to tell you much more than you’ll get from reading the programme (a steal at just £1!).

I’m also not going to talk about each role the actors played. This was definitely an ensemble piece and each person played far too many characters to remember them all. Credit has to be given to the cast – it really can’t have been easy to remember two plays with numerous characters  at the same time.

The play featured periods of history ranging from Ancient Britain all the way to the modern day (right up to the advent of the selfie stick!). Some well known historical figures were shown as well as some you might not have heard of.

My particular highlights were:

  • Edward Ferrow’s performance as Richard III, played as if he was a naughty school boy who had been caught in the act!
  • The Lady Jane Grey section, done completely in rhyme.  This was a story I was only vaguely familiar with but now definitely want to read more.
  • The Spanish Armada shown in the style of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge G&S fan, but I have been in a production of Pirates of Penzance which just made this section even funnier. I particularly loved the variation on Modern Major General and Queen Elizabeth I’s take on The Pirate King, fabulously sung by Kelly Griffiths. Incidentally, I did have an up close and personal encounter with Queen Bess, in which I was referred to as a “potential obstacle” – MADE MY NIGHT!

The whole production reminded me of an A Level drama lesson. Believe me when I say that’s not a bad thing,  In fact it’s one of the greatest compliments I could give.  I was a drama student and those were some of the happiest days of my life. A Level Drama lessons were a time to be imaginative and experimental and this production had all of that in spades. Drama students also love their craft and genuinely enjoy the work they are producing. If the cast of History of Britan weren’t loving every minute then they truly are giving performances worthy of an Oscar.

One of the most interesting things about the play was that it had some really serious notes as well. I have never seen the Pantaloons doing anything other than comedy and silliness. They beautifully handled work on World War I, featuring some of the more well known poems from the time. They managed to keep the comedy going while have some genuinely moving moments.

And that’s all I’m really going to say on the matter.  Apparently I love The Pantaloon’s original material as much as I do their other work.  I’m already planning which of the Summer shows I want to go and see – there are a whole selection to choose from.

If you want to find out if they are touring near you then (as always) head to their website.  It’s newly revamped! Very cool.

DISCLAIMER: All thoughts and opinions are my own. This is not a sponsored post. All tickets were purchased from my own (battered) bank account. I am in no way affiliated or have any personal relationship with The Pantaloons Company or any of its members.

But I’m working on it…

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